The deep sea is one of the largest ecosystems on Earth and is home to a highly diverse fauna, with polychaetes, molluscs and peracarid crustaceans as dominant groups. A number of studies have proposed that this fauna did not survive the anoxic events that occurred during the Mesozoic Era. Accordingly, the modern fauna is thought to be relatively young, perhaps having colonized the deep sea after the Eocene/Oligocene boundary. To test this hypothesis, we performed phylogenetic analyses of nuclear ribosomal 18S and 28S and mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I and 16S sequences from isopod crustaceans. Using a molecular clock calibrated with multiple isopod fossils, we estimated the timing of deep-sea colonization events by isopods. Our results show that some groups have an ancient origin in the deep sea, with the earliest estimated dates spanning 232–314 Myr ago. Therefore, anoxic events at the Permian–Triassic boundary and during the Mesozoic did not cause the extinction of all the deep-sea fauna; some species may have gone extinct while others survived and proliferated. The monophyly of the ‘munnopsid radiation’ within the isopods suggests that the ancestors of this group evolved in the deep sea and did not move to shallow-water refugia during anoxic events.
- Received August 20, 2012.
- Accepted September 12, 2012.
- This journal is © 2012 The Royal Society